Community key in Nigerian memories
Everyone has a story, a series of events that led to potentially life-changing choices. In I am because we are, Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr tells the story of her mother Dora’s life as a Nigerian politician and activist fighting the fraudulent drug trade, and finally as a dying woman in need of medical attention. Throughout history runs the African principle of ubuntu, which shifts the importance of community over the individual.
Akunyili-Parr is currently based in Toronto, where she works as a writer, consultant and speaker. She is also the founder of the community organization She ROARS, which is dedicated to helping women of color achieve their goals. Much of his work revolves around the principle of ubuntu.
I am because we are is written in the first person, mainly from the point of view of Dora Akunyili, then from the point of view of her daughter Chidiogo. The book covers many important aspects of Dora’s life, including her experiences during the Biafran War and the consequences, positive and negative, of her parents. decision to send her to live with her grandmother. Although many aspects of her life were difficult, these experiences also helped shape the person she has become.
Many of the choices Dora Akunyili made were responses to the circumstances she encountered. Knowing that Nigeria is the source of many fraudulent drugs, she decided to become a pharmacist so that she could help explore alternatives to contaminated and often weakened pharmaceuticals. When her younger sister, a diabetic, died from taking contaminated insulin, she decided that counterfeit drugs would be the focus of her work.
Taking on the task of ridding Nigeria of this problem involved making people aware of the problem and then trying to make changes at a high level. For many years, Akunyili worked with NAFDAC, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, in Nigeria. Government positions followed, as well as death threats and an assassination attempt. Eventually, Akunyili herself needed medical treatment and treatment in her battle with cancer.
Throughout the book is a strong common thread of family and community. While her marriage was flawed, Akunyili’s relationship with her six children remained strong, even as the family dispersed to the United States and other parts of the world. His bond with some of his siblings also helped give him strength in difficult times, whether it be successes or failures.
Dora Akunyili recounts her own life and death before the perspective turns to the tale of her youngest daughter, Chidiogo. Dora is inspired by the perspective of her siblings, as well as the traditions of the Igbo tribe, to which the family belonged, and her Christian faith.
Chidiogo’s account in the final chapters includes thoughts both on how the book came together and on his siblings ?? reactions to the death of their mother. In keeping with her mother’s wishes, the story also deals with the healing, both physical and emotional, that people need in the situations they encounter.
I am because we are is a compelling story, especially for readers interested in politics and international campaigns. Some of Dora Akunyili’s speeches are included in the book, giving readers a sense of the ideals that drive her.
Even for those who are not too interested in politics, I am because we are is a compelling family story with enough twists and turns to motivate readers to continue to the last page.
Susan Huebert is a Winnipeg writer and editor.
Elmwood Community Correspondent
Susan Huebert is Community Correspondent for Elmwood
Read the full biography